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One commonly overlooked thing that should be on everyone's holiday shopping list

One commonly overlooked thing that should be on everyone's holiday shopping list

During the holidays, all of the major retailers bring their A-game when it comes to offering major discounts. But, while Walmart, Target, Amazon and the rest of the world's retail giants battle it out for your business, there's one industry that's often overlooked.

We're talking about the travel industry. You might not realize it, but the travel industry offers the equivalent of "doorbuster" sales during the holidays, too. That makes this time of year one of the best times to book your upcoming vacations.

To find the absolute best price, there are a few tricks. First, you shouldn't look to travel during peak seasons, such as spring break or holiday weekends. Second, you should be flexible with the dates you'd like to arrive and depart for your trip.

Setting up price alerts is an easy way to keep an eye out for price drops. When you see the deal that's within your budget, act quickly. Depending on how fast they sell, the prices you see may only be available for a day, sometimes even a few hours.

If you're ready to shop around, here are three additional ways to find even more savings:

1. Book direct from the airlines

Before trying this trick, fire up Priceline, Kayak or your favorite comparison site first. You can also use Google Flights, which isn't a booking site and pulls ticket prices directly from the airlines, in addition to giving you some impressive tools for finding the perfect flight.

Run a search on your trip and note the least expensive airline and the price. Then go to the airline's website and see if it shows that price or something less expensive.

The good news is that buying directly from the airline won't be more expensive than what you'll find on a comparison site. So if you have a favorite carrier, you can book through it directly and not worry you're missing out on savings.

While you're comparing, be sure to check the sites for Southwest and Delta. Those don't usually show up on flight comparison sites and might have cheaper options.

2. Try a different airport

When you're flying into an area with multiple airports, it pays to check out the prices to each one. For instance, if you're flying into the San Francisco Bay Area, it's usually cheaper to fly into Oakland rather than SFO.

Of course, you don't always want to default to the smaller airport. There's a myth that flying into a major hub like JFK or LAX is always going to cost more, but sometimes it can actually cost less. So it always pays to check for each flight.

Similarly, there's a myth that you can save big if you book a connecting flight versus a direct flight. The Airlines Reporting Corp. looked at 57 million tickets last year and found the average savings was about $1.03, which isn't really worth the extra hassle.

However, the ARC did find that a Saturday night stay over could save you big. Again, it comes down to how much of a hassle that is for you.

3. Fly out mid-week

Talk to any group of travel experts about the best day to buy a ticket and you'll get a few answers. Tuesday used to be the conventional wisdom, but new research shows that buying on weekends will save you the most. Learn more about choosing the best day to fly.

More important than the day, you want to buy at least six to eight weeks in advance of your trip. Prices do go up as you get closer to the flight, most of the time.

If you want to do a last-minute winter vacation, you can also find great deals as long as you're traveling somewhere not many people are going. Airlines will discount tickets just before the flight to try and fill it up.

Another important factor is saving on a ticket the day you fly. Flying on the weekends or on holidays is a sure way to overpay. After all, that's when everyone else is flying.

Taking off mid-week when fewer people are traveling is going to net you substantial savings. Wednesday is best, followed by Thursday and Tuesday. Flying really early in the day can also knock off a few bucks.

Plus, flying during non-peak days and hours means less craziness with lines and crowds at the airport. Save money and breeze through the security line? Yes, please.

What are your favorite tricks for saving money on airline tickets? Let me know in the comments.

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More travel tips you'll love:

Pick the best airline seat for your next flight

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